Duff savours Fulham's 'amazing' run

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The Independent Football

Damien Duff is hoping to bury his memories of World Cup heartbreak by guiding Fulham to Europa League glory. Duff's hopes of making his second appearance at a World Cup finals were ended in November after Thierry Henry's now infamous handball helped France to seal a 2-1 aggregate win over the Republic of Ireland.

The Londoners' winger lashed out at officials for failing to notice Henry's foul afterwards, but he admits his bad memories have been put to the back of his mind, partly due to Fulham's European success this year.

Roy Hodgson's side have gone on an incredible run in the Europa League this season, accounting for the likes of Shakhtar Donetsk and Juventus to make the quarter-finals, where they hold a 2-1 lead going into tonight's second leg away to Wolfsburg.

The Irishman has been a crucial part of Fulham's success this season, scoring nine in all competitions having signed from Newcastle in August.

Fulham will set up a semi-final against Hamburg or Standard Liège should they progress and Duff admits he is desperate for the Cottagers to end the season by lifting the trophy. "Will winning the Europa League make up for losing out on the World Cup? Yes, that and more," the 31-year-old said. "It has been an amazing journey, and in a way that night in Paris is a distant memory now.

"We've played so many games since then and they seem to be getting bigger and bigger. To get to a final and win would be unbelievable. When we started out nobody would have thought we'd get this far, so bring it on."

A thigh injury to Clint Dempsey has left manager Roy Hodgson short of attacking options for tonight's match at the Volkswagen Arena. Bobby Zamora is struggling with an Achilles injury while David Elm has not travelled with the squad after going to hospital to have checks on the recurrence of a virus he picked up in Turin last month.

Zamora trained last night but if he misses out Hodgson will have to pair midfielder Zoltan Gera with veteran striker Erik Nevland up front tonight. The manager, who is without Andy Johnson for the season, is confident his side will be able to perform, even if Zamora does not play. "We've played quite a lot of games without Bobby so I don't think I had any fears. We needed to prove we could win without him," said the 62-year-old.

"We've been stretched up front all season. We lost Andy Johnson in the first week in January, so that limited us. Dempsey took a knock against Wigan and he could be out for some time. That means resources are even more stretched than they have been but Gera has partnered Bobby up front and together they've done a very good job for the team."

Wolfsburg (probable, 4-4-2): Benaglio; Pekarik, Madlung, Barzagli, Schäfer; Riesther, Josue, Gentner, Misimovic; Dzeko, Grafite.

Fulham (probable, 4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Kelly, Hangeland, Hughes, Konchesky; Davies, Murphy, Etuhu, Duff; Gera; Zamora.

Referee: V Kassai (Hungary).

TV: ITV4, kick-off 8.05pm.

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